Heather Bills 'frustrated' at surviving house fire, inquest told

Heather Bills died in hospital six weeks after a house fire in Orakei.

Heather Bills died in hospital six weeks after a house fire in Orakei.

A burn-injured woman who died of an insulin overdose said she was "frustrated" about surviving an Auckland house fire in 2013, an inquest has been told.

Heather Bills suffered a brain injury while in the care of Middlemore Hospital after being given a large dose of insulin.

However, who administered the dose and whether it was deliberate remains a mystery.

Heather Bills died in hospital weeks after her house went up in flames in Orakei.

Heather Bills died in hospital weeks after her house went up in flames in Orakei.

On Friday, nurse Tania Sachill - one of the nurses who cared for Bills in hospital - gave evidence at the coroner's inquiry into the woman's death. 

* Injured woman offered to pay hospital staff to end her life, inquest told
* Heather Bills insulin overdose could have been deliberate, inquest told
* Heather Bills died of insulin overdose, but who administered it remains a mystery

"I recall that Heather was quite distressed," Scahill said of Bills in her witness statement.

"She was frustrated about being alive. She was shocked at herself that she had stuffed it up. She would make comments like, 'how could I be so stupid?' and then whack the bed with her hands. 

"She was saying how she was useless and had never done anything right. She said we should let her go and she was just a burden," Scahill said.

"Sometimes you would be having a conversation with her and then she'd just suddenly realise the horror of the situation and throw her hands in the air in disappointment.

"She was quite intelligent and had a dry sense of humour. She said quite a few times, 'I'm not stupid enough to do it in hospital. I'll wait until I get out,' meaning another suicide attempt. I never answered her or promoted any conversation around this; I just ignored her."

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On Thursday, the inquest was told Bills had offered to pay hospital staff to end her life.

"I know she had a purse with $5,000 in it, but I never saw it," said Scahill in her statement.

"The nurse before me told me about it. I am not sure if Heather had told me herself.

"Heather never offered me any money to end her life. She didn't talk about the fire and we didn't talk about the money. I didn't think it was appropriate," she said.

"I was not aware of any other nurses being offered money."

Questioning Scahill, Bills' daughter, Michelle Maher, asked her about her mother's mobility in hospital. She was trying to ascertain whether Bills could have injected herself with insulin.

"No, from what I recall her hands were heavily bandaged," Scahill replied. 

"I think her legs were heavily bandaged as well so I don't imagine she would be really mobile at that time on the ward."

Scahill also told Maher that Bills was "really frustrated about surviving" the house fire that had landed her in hospital.

In November 2013, a powerful blaze at Bills' house in the upmarket suburb of Orakei caused serious damage and blew the car out of the garage on to the road.

Neighbours rescued Bills and her two dogs and she was taken to Middlemore Hospital with severe burns to her legs.

Following treatment at the hospital, Bills began to recover. Her family were preparing for her release when she received the fatal insulin dose.

A police investigation into Bills' death is ongoing.

Police told the coroner's inquiry on Tuesday they believe Bills was injected with insulin and they have three suspects, who all worked at the hospital.

 - Stuff

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